Finding inspiration from the masters of neo-expressionism of the 70’s and 80’s, Yasemin Öncü is one to believe in the power of drawing. The artist who interprets the outer world through the dynamics of “monsters” has a lot to feed on from current life and popular culture! Continue to read more…

Before anything else, we would like to hear the story of how you got into art…

Since a very young age, in fact, ever since I’ve known myself, painting is an expression, a meditative act for me; my own personal space that isolates me from my surroundings. I come from a family that is interested in art, consists of many talented individuals and always encourages me on art. That’s why I wanted to pursue my education in this field. I received my bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from Sabancı University in 2012, and my Post-graduate degree in 2016 from the University of OCADU in Toronto. My main source of inspiration is the neo-expressionism of the 70’s and the 80’s. The works of the prominent artists of the aforementioned era of the movement (such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring) inspire me a lot. I think art is an expression. And I, as an artist express my ideas on the society and world by expressing it with painting.

What motivates you to take the brush and paint in hand on an ordinary day?

In my paintings, I take inspiration from the observations in my surroundings or extraordinary events I’m made aware of by how they’re reflected in the media; mostly from my impressions of people who marganalize each other, or even further, who pick on each other. These are usually events taking place in Turkey. But the same impressions can be made through the striking events of the same content in the global context. I study the events and news as such from a perpective called “exorcize”; reflecting this point of view in my works. Although my work might seem dark at times, I try to neutralize them through the vivid colors I choose and make an effort to express it without giving it a value.

What do you see of yourself when you look at your work?

The people who meet me after having seen my work usually are surprised. Someone who looks peaceful and happy but creates works that are so chaotic and dark… I don’t think so. My works are of course the expression of my inner world, but it’s rather that I create exactly what I observe. What really amazes me are people. The world is a very chaotic place and I am very much affected by it.

Characters of monsters stand out in your work. What do they represent to you?

The monster is a key symbol for me. It comes from “monore” in Latin. This word actually means “to warn, to show something.” It also points out to what’s bad and dark. Besides, the monster is used to convey a staggering message in myths and in popular media. Apart from those, the monster in my work symbolizes people who marginalize one another. The monster also is a symbol that shows that they become the same as each other as they dissolved their differences by marginalizing one another. So in that sense, it’s a tool to neutralize, and dissolve the differences for me. We are all monsters at times; we don’t need to be pure evil or good.

The monster is a key symbol for me. It comes from “monore” in Latin. This word actually means “to warn, to show something.” It also points out to what’s bad and dark.

Can one say that you make reference to the birth of art history, to the old cave paintings?

Yes, one can say that. I researched the pagan symbols and drawings from mythology, primitive and the middle ages a lot. I find inspiration in the symbols and the old ways of writing on inscriptions. Although I usually make random symbols, I sometimes put symbols that have an actual meaning just to plant a secret cipher. Someone who wants to decipher it can do so. The old cave paintings were about recording and painting certain events from daily life. And I, in some way try to reflect certain events, though not so openly.

We see that your art goes beyond the canvas at times. Where does using different mediums stand in your perception of art?

I don’t follow many rules when I paint. I prefer expressing myself however I feel like. Perhaps this is the result of an education with strict rules. As I can’t estimate where I will be starting and finishing, I can go beyond the borders, whether I want to or not. I don’t necessarily care to have a focus point in my paintings; but sometimes, I emphasize more on the messages that I think are worth surfacing. Besides those, I want to use black dominantly but I try to find a balance by including vivid colors. This is the only rule I put for myself.

How do you observe the advantages and disadvantages of existing in the creative world?

It’s a challenging world; there’s a lot of competition and it requires a lot of self-confidence. In fact when you think about it, you put a part of yourself out there, and any positive or negative comment that’s made on your work is a criticism on yourself. It’s mostly an eye-opening experience, allows you to question yourself even if it’s hard. Currently, I’m going back and forth between İstanbul and Toronto. It’s a nice experience for me to not be steadily based somewhere. As an artist, I have the chance to go to anywhere in the world at the moment, and the approach of the creative people in those different places are varied; you learn a lot. How the art world operates or the people’s perception of art can be really different in your own country. Something disliked here can be liked elsewhere. This dynamic is very interesting to me.

What’s exciting for you these days?

Although it’s not exciting, I find a lot of inspiration in the dramatic and clashing current events around the world and in Turkey. My works are always born from this, but for some reason there’s a lot of content these days…